16 Things to Do in St. Augustine: The Oldest City in the US
Updated: Jul 25
What to Do in St. Augustine, Florida For a Fun Trip
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Welcome to the “oldest city in the US,” St. Augustine, Florida. One of the best beach towns in the country, you don’t want to miss this city when you’re in Florida. There is a lot of fun to be had here, as well as tons to learn throughout the city’s historic streets and buildings.
Step back in time at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument and walk where Spanish soldiers once lived to protect the city. Enjoy pretty beach walks on the coast. Find delicious restaurants and some of the best seafood in the US. There is a lot to see, do, and eat in St. Augustine.
If you only have a short amount of time here, keep reading to discover the best things to do in St. Augustine! After a fun visit, and tons of research, these are my top picks that you don’t want to miss out on. So let’s plan a fun trip to this coastal city and learn about fun things to do in St. Augustine, Florida.
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Where is St. Augustine?
Located in northeastern Florida, St. Augustine is right on the coast. Along with many fun activities in town, the beaches here are fantastic. Grab a beach chair and relax with a book, or lather on the sunscreen and hop in the ocean for a swim.
The closest international airport to St. Augustine is in Jacksonville, about a 45 to 50-minute drive away. You can also fly into Orlando. We did this because flights were so much cheaper, but you will either need to rent a car and drive the 2 hours to St. Augustine or plan your flight around catching the Amtrak train to Jacksonville.
Ready to plan your trip? Start by looking at flights! Already have them? Keep reading to learn about all the best things to do in St. Augustine.
Brief St. Augustine History
Let’s take it back to 1545 when the Spanish settled in St. Augustine, Florida. It has been continuously occupied since this year, making it the oldest city in the United States.
St. Augustine was historically a military outpost town. This is where the Spanish fought the French and tried to conquer more of current-day Florida. It was also the base for Catholic missionary settlements across the southeast US.
We all know that the history of the US is not a pretty one, and that of St. Augustine’s is no different. There were many battles fought here, Native Americans held captive, and prisoners forced to convert to Catholicism.
Interestingly, the Spanish allowed escaped slaves sanctuary in St. Augustine, but only if they pledged their allegiance to the King of Spain and converted to Catholicism.
In 1861, during the civil war, Florida joined the Confederacy, but Union troops who were loyal to the US government successfully occupied St. Augustine. They managed to keep control of the city for the four-year Civil War.
Because it was established by the Spanish, the architecture here is still very influenced by the Spanish style. You can find traditional buildings that have been saved and restored, as well as new buildings that still follow Spanish-style architecture.
St. Augustine became a popular vacation destination when Henry Flagler, a former partner of John D. Rockefeller, opened three high-end hotels here. This attracted many local visitors and made St. Augustine a winter vacation haven.
Today, around 2 million people visit St. Augustine annually thanks to the beaches and the history. You can still visit the hotels that Henry Flagler opened, but they now operate as different businesses, and they're some of the best things to do in St. Augustine!
The Best Time to Visit St. Augustine
The weather in St. Augustine is fairly pleasant year-round. Temperatures reach the 90s in the summer, typically from June through August, and fall brings in slightly cooler temps, around the high 70s. Winter can get cold here, but it generally doesn’t drop below 40°F.
The best time to visit St. Augustine is in the spring, any time from March through June. This time of year brings temps around the 60s to 80s and less rain. As well as smaller crowds; you don’t get the summer break vacationers this time of year.
The rainiest months here are August and September. With that being said, Florida is very rainy, so expect rain any time of year. It is also very humid in Florida, especially in the summer.
Check out the best hotels and beach rentals in St. Augustine!
What to Pack for St. Augustine
Let’s go to the beach! What to pack for St. Augustine will depend on when you want to visit, but let’s start with the basics.
If you’re visiting St. Augustine in the summer, you should bring…
Sunscreen - Don’t let a bad sunburn ruin the rest of your trip, and protect your skin!
Swimsuit - I highly recommend going for a swim in the ocean, or at least relaxing and sunbathing on the beach!
Waterproof Sandals - Walking on the sand in sneakers is not fun, and it’s nice to be able to wash off your feet, shoes and all after a beach day.
Walking Shoes - If you want to explore downtown St. Augustine, I highly recommend wearing comfortable walking shoes. These might be tennis shoes or a super comfy pair of sandals.
Packing Cubes - These are a packing hack you don’t want to miss out on. Keep your clothes organized, and fit more into a small bag than you ever thought was possible.
Compact Umbrella - Remember it rains quite a bit in St. Augustine, so throw a travel-size umbrella in your bag!
Quick Dry Beach Towel - This isn’t necessarily a must as your rental might have beach towels available, but I have found a quick dry towel to be a must on the beach, and they repel sand!
I recommend packing shorts, dresses, tank tops, and t-shirts for a summer trip. It will be quite hot in the day, but bring a light sweatshirt or jacket for the evenings or for cold restaurants as the AC is often on high.
If you’re visiting St. Augustine in the winter, or in cooler months, you probably won’t want a swimsuit unless your accommodation has a hot tub. You can also leave the sandals and beach towel at home. I suggest packing pants, t-shirts, and a jacket or two. If you typically run cold, bring some long sleeve shirts or a couple of sweaters.
But don’t forget packing cubes no matter when you visit! Winter clothes tend to take up more space in your luggage, so these will be extra helpful in colder months.
Things to Do in St. Augustine
You might be saying, ok cool Georgina, this is all important info, but what about activities. No more wondering what to do in St. Augustine. It’s now time for the super fun part. Explore the best of St. Augustine, learn about its history, and appreciate all the oldest city in the US has to offer.
Here are my top picks for things to do in St. Augustine, Florida:
1. St. Augustine Trolley
This is the number one pick of all things to do in St Augustine because it is such a fun way to see all of downtown. The drivers are guides who will tell you all the cool facts, and the trolleys are transportation you can hop on and off to explore at your own pace.
Head to the Old Town Trolley Main Depot to start your journey. There is free parking (yippee!), bathrooms, and a gift shop. You can buy tickets here and hop on the trolley at the beginning of its route. There are multiple places you can buy tickets for the St. Augustine trolley, but I recommend starting here for convenience, even if you purchase tickets online ahead of time.
There are 22 stops along the trolly route, and you can get on and off as you please. It is similar to a public bus in this way, but the driver is very helpful, sharing facts about the city along with recommendations. There are many sights to see, such as the Castillo de San Marcos, as well as shopping to enjoy, and great restaurants to choose from.
The trolleys run every 10 to 15 minutes, so when you’re ready to get back, head to the closest stop and wait for the next trolley! Make sure you grab a map from a trolley employee before you start your adventure. If you’re looking to shop and dine, I suggest getting off at stop 7 on Hypolita Street. This is a very walkable area with tons of store and restaurant options.
This activity is on the pricier side, but I think it’s worth it. At the time of publishing this article, our tickets cost $37 per person. But you’re essentially getting a guided tour of the entire downtown St. Augustine along with transportation, and you can travel at your own pace.
2. Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
Built by the Spanish, the Castillo de San Marcos was a fort designed to protect Florida and the Atlantic trade route that kept the people living here alive. This is a must-see in St. Augustine, it played a huge role in the city’s history.
The fort was never destroyed in battle, although there were plenty that happened around it. Because it was so sturdy, it never fell to enemy forces until a treaty forced it from the hands of the Spanish to the British.
It is run by the National Park Service, or NPS, so you can use your America the Beautiful Pass to enter. Otherwise, you can purchase entrance tickets when you arrive; at the time of publication, tickets cost $15 per person. This was one of my favorite things to do in St Augustine, and they even have a real cannon firing!
3. Enjoy a Beach Day
If you’re visiting St. Augustine, chances are you’re planning on going to the beach. And if you weren’t, I’m telling you that you should. Head to St. Augustine Beach or Vilano Beach, go for a swim, or relax on a beach chair. Whatever your beach style is, St. Augustine’s beaches are really nice and you don’t want to miss out on them!
Before your trip, look to see if your accommodation has beach gear available to use. While you can visit with just a towel, it’s really nice if you have an umbrella and some chairs.
4. St. Augustine Ghost Tour
Who wants to get spooked? Book a St. Augustine ghost tour and dive into some of the city’s creepy past. The 80-minute tour is guided by a host who knows all the interesting facts. Get ready to get the chills! You can also book a tour of the Old Jail and try to find your own ghosts with paranormal detecting equipment.
5. The St. Augustine Amphitheater
This one's for you live music lovers. If you can, you may want to plan in advance and see who will be performing while you’re in town. But if you’re not picky about who you listen to and where your seats are, buy some last-minute tickets to a current show and enjoy a fun night with live music!
6. Airboat Ride
Experience a different side of Northeast Florida and book an airboat tour! This is an exciting activity for everyone, and the guides will tell you tons of information about the area. You can also rent a pontoon boat if you prefer a slower-paced adventure, but you will be driving it.
7. Potter’s Wax Museum
Head to the oldest wax museum in the US for a fun activity for you and the whole family. Learn about Florida history, United States history, science, culture, and more with life-size wax replicas of some famous and some important people throughout time. It's like you're learning the history from the actual people who experienced it!
You can buy tickets in advance for Potter;s
8. Spanish Military Hospital Museum
Hop in the museum and travel back in time. Learn about the history of medicine in the colonial Spanish days, and even watch some apothecary demonstrations. There are guided tours available so you can truly experience all there is in the Spanish Military Hospital Museum. And it’s pet friendly!
If you happen to be looking for some dog-friendly things to do in St Augustine, the Spanish Military Hospital Museum is perfect for you.
9. Scenic Cruise
Travel along the St. Augustine waterfront and bay area and learn about historical monuments and events that shaped the city into what it is today. A scenic cruise is another fun way to see the beachfront while also learning about St. Augustine’s history.
10. Helicopter Tour
Want to splurge and see St. Augustine from a totally different angle? Book a helicopter tour! This is a much more expensive activity, so it’s probably better for a couple or small family. However, it’s a really fun experience! I just don’t recommend going if you’re afraid of heights or get motion sickness easily.
11. Flagler College
This is a must-see! It’s one of my favorite things to do in St Augustine because it’s so pretty. This is a college campus that is currently in use but is free to walk around and admire. It was one of the original hotels built by Henry Flagler, the man most responsible for making St. Augustine the vacation destination it is today.
It was turned into a college in 1968 after a glorious history as a hotel. This is actually a stop on the St. Augustine trolley, so if you’re on it, make sure you get off at Flagler College!
12. Lightner Museum
Visit the Lightner Museum and learn interesting facts about history, art, and culture. Located in what was once the Alcazar Hotel, another hotel built by Henry Flagler, this museum is beautiful on the outside and filled with incredible exhibitions inside. You can buy tickets ahead of your visit if you wish to visit!
13. Florida Water Tours
Another fun way to explore a different side of St. Augustine, Florida Water Tours offers amazing tours for families, couples, and solo travelers. Hop on a dolphin cruise and see how many you can find, or slow down for the evening and enjoy a sunset cruise. There are all kinds of options making this the perfect activity for every group!
14. St. Augustine Alligator Farm and Zoological Park
This one is fun for kids, but also for all ages. Who doesn’t love a fun zoo experience? Besides housing 24 species of crocodilians here, there are lots of other animals to admire, as well as feeding shows and educational shows. There’s even a zipline over the alligators for the brave!
15. Lighthouse & Maritime Museum
While you can learn about the history of St. Augustine and how it became the city it is today, you can also climb to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse for incredible views! There is even a Lighthouse ghost tour for those of you seeking a little thrill.
16. Eat All the Delicious Foods
When you think of St. Augustine, you might not think of culinary capital, but the food here should not be slept on! Being right on the coast, there is a plethora of delicious and fresh seafood, along with other dishes you don’t want to miss. There are even dessert shops you should definitely check out! Here are some of my favorites:
Hurricane Patty’s - seafood, cocktails, and unique desserts
The Backyard at Meehan’s - Irish pub with specialties like Shepard’s Pie and live music
Green Papaya - delicious Thai and Japanese dishes
Cousteau’s Waffle and Milkshake Bar - incredible milkshakes and waffle ice cream sandwiches
Here are the best restaurants in St Augustine!
Other Popular Things to Do in St Augustine
Are you excited about your trip to St. Augustine yet? The oldest city in the US has a lot to offer, making it the perfect destination for couples, families, or even solo travelers. Take a ride on the St. Augustine trolley and learn all about the city’s intriguing history. Shop around in the local stores downtown and pop in a restaurant or two for a delicious meal.
There are so many fun things to do in St Augustine, the list could go on, but I highly suggest you check out these things first. Especially if you’ve never been to St. Augustine before!
Pack your swimsuit and head to the beach for a relaxing day, this is simply a must here. Or splurge on a St. Augustine beach stay and enjoy the ocean views every day! If you can, go on a weekday to avoid the bigger crowds. And don’t forget your sunscreen!
Now it’s time to book your flights, find the best hotel, pack your bags, and get ready for a fun trip! Enjoy all this city has to offer and save these things to do in St Augustine. Where will you be heading first when you arrive in St. Augustine?